By Capt. Jeff Werner
After spending almost a quarter century under sail, cruising catamarans are my favorite boats. As a professional captain, I have crossed oceans and seas on monohulls, catamarans and trimarans of all sizes, but it is always aboard a cat I am most happy to be at the helm.
With the ownership of a cruising catamaran comes the responsibility of maintenance, and that responsibility includes annual haul outs. Finding a boatyard or marina with the capability to lift a wide beam vessel can be a daunting task. My unscientific survey of sailing catamarans 40- to 45-foot LOA revealed the average beam is 23 feet, with a loaded displacement of 17 tons. From 45- to 49-foot LOA, the numbers average 25 feet and 18 tons. And 50- to 54-foot LOA are 26 and a half feet and 25 tons in weight. You get the picture. Hauling out a sailing cat is not about weight; it’s all about beam.
Fortuitously, from Fort Pierce to Key West there is quite a election of full service locations to haul out a cat of at least a 23-foot beam for repair and maintenance. Owners of increasingly popular power catamarans, or sailing cats’with air drafts less than 54 feet, can take advantage of the boat yards tucked away behind low bridges.
Harbortown Marina in Ft. Pierce is located along the ICW just north of downtown. For sailing catamarans with masts taller than the ICW fixed bridged clearance of 65 feet, Harbor¬town Marina has direct access to the Atlantic Ocean through Ft. Pierce Inlet, less than three miles away. Their 150-ton Trav¬elift will haul out cats with a maximum beam of 26 feet. 772- 466-7300 harbortownmarina-fortpierce.com
Head south along the ICW to Manatee Pocket at Stuart to find the South Florida boat yard for Hinckley Yacht Services. It has easy access from the ocean via St. Lucie Inlet; just watch out for the strong currents and shifting sandbars at the junction of the inlet and the ICW. Although Hinckley’s heritage embraces building fine monohull cruising sailboats, the Hinckley brand has grown in the past 20 years to include jet drive picnic boats and runabouts with classic lines and superior craftsmanship. The maximum beam Hinckley’s 150-ton Travelift can accommo¬date is 25 feet. 772-287-0923; hinckleyyachts.com
Cruise west from Manatee Pocket along the Okeechobee Waterway to American Custom Yachts. This boatyard is located at marker Red “46” just east of the St. Lucie Lock, and sits between two fixed bridges. There are several fixed bridg¬es on the way from Manatee Pocket, with the lowest_ vertical clearance being 54 feet. If your mast is short enough to clear that Palm City Bridge, American Custom Yachts can use their 150-ton Travelift to put the straps around catamarans of up to 27-foot beam. 772-286-2835; americancustomyachts.com
The north end of the Gold Coast is the home of Rybovich. Their marine centers in West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach are located just south and north of Peanut Island along the ICW. Entering the ICW from Lake Worth Inlet avoids any bridge clearance problems. The newer Rybovich yard at Riviera Beach (561-863-4126) will accommodate cats up to a 26-foot beam on their 150-ton Travelift. The original West Palm Beach yard (561-844-1800) has a massive 660-ton Travelift, capable of handling cats up to 35-foot beam.
Heading up the New River past downtown Fort Lauderdale offers a variety of haul out possibilities. Before heading up river, however, one must remember the bascule drawbridges are locked down during morning and afternoon rush hours from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Once through the William H. Marshall Memorial Bridge, just beyond the bend on the river that is home to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, continue on and choose the South Fork of the New River.
Just before reaching the I-95 fixed bridge, note the Lauderdale Marine Center on the south bank. Lauderdale Marine Center is a combination full service and do-it-yourself boat yard encompassing 50 acres of land. It is a popular superyacht repair facility and its 300-ton Travelift can haul out catamarans up to 30-foot beam. 954-713-0333; lauderdalemarinecenter.com
To go upriver beyond the I-95 bridge, sailing catamarans must first negotiate the vertical clearance of 55 feet for that bridge. If your mast fits under that bridge, access to the boat yards along Marina Mile (State Road 84) is open.
Billfish Marina is the first haul out facility on State Road 84, and also has the smallest Travelift with catamaran capabilities. At 70 ton, it will lift a maximum of 23.5-foot beam, which is more than adequate for a 40-foot LOA cat. 954-587-6226; billfishmarina.com
Continuing west find Roscioli Yachting Center, a shipyard that has been in existence for 40 years and was completely renovated in 2008. It now has a 352-ton mobile lift capable of hauling out a catamaran with a maximum beam of 28 feet. 954-581-9200; rycshipyard.com